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What is pre-employment testing?

Mikaella McInerney

Pre-employment testing is crucial to a successful hire. The best tests forecast how your candidate will perform if you hire them, as well as giving you a sense of how they’ll fit in with the rest of the organization.

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Pre-employment testing is crucial to a successful hire. The recruitment process is about getting to know each candidate as quickly and thoroughly as you can within a short period of time. You’re trying to predict how well a candidate will perform in their job day-to-day, based on a series of high pressure interviews. To a certain extent, this is an impossible task!

That’s where pre-employment tests and assessments come in. There are a range of different ways to assess how your candidate will perform in the role should you give it to them. Some tests might be skills assessments, attempts to understand how your candidate uses their expertise and professional history. Others might be personality-based, to gain insights into your candidate’s behavioral choices, strengths and weaknesses. The best tests forecast how your candidate will perform if you hire them, as well as giving you a sense of how they’ll fit in with the rest of the organization.

In this article, we’ll explain what pre-employment tests are, go through some good pre-interview assessment questions and explain why they are crucial to hiring the best talent.

What is pre-employment testing?

Pre-employment tests (also called pre-hire assessments, candidate assessments and pre-employment assessment tests) are any tool or method used to evaluate job candidates consistently. These tests can range from hard to soft skills and include case studies, assessment challenges, personality tests, and more. Importantly, they are applied to every candidate who applies for the role so that you have a reliable standard to measure every candidate in the same objective way.

Examples of pre-interview assessment questions

As there are lots of different kinds of pre-employment tests, let’s break down common questions you might ask or tasks you might set for each type of pre-employment test.

Hard skills assessment

Hard skills assessments test the specific competencies, skills, knowledge and abilities your candidate needs. Of course, these skills change from role to role. You might need to test your candidate’s ability with programming languages, specific programs like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop, numerical skills, logistical abilities and more.

Soft skills assessment

On the other end of the spectrum, soft skills test how your candidate relates and interacts with others, including managers, coworkers, customers, clients, vendors and anyone else they might come across in their day to day work life! You can assess your candidate’s soft skills in the interview process, as well as tests designed to provide insights into the candidate’s adaptability, creativity, communication skills, energy and more.

Work skills tests

Testing a candidate’s work skills involves setting them a small assignment that gives an indication of how they’d complete tasks within the working environment. For example, if you’re hiring a content manager you might ask them to complete a copywriting task; if you’re hiring a product manager, you might ask them to put a presentation together. Read more about work skills tests in our definitive guide to talent assessment tests.

Cognitive ability tests

Research emphasizes that cognitive ability tests are one of the best predictors of job performance, making these tests an essential part of assessing any candidate. Cognitive ability tests assess tasks associated with perception, learning, memory, understanding, awareness, reasoning, judgment, intuition and language. Typical tests might ask a candidate to solve logic puzzles, math problems or answer reading comprehension questions. You can read more and find examples in our guide to conducting a cognitive ability test.

Personality tests

How will a candidate behave outside of the high pressure interview situation? How will they fit in within your organization’s culture? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they react in difficult circumstances? All of these questions have answers within a range of academically verified and peer-researched personality tests. For example, you could use the Personality-M inventory, which breaks down the Big Five factors of a person’s personality: neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion and openness/intellect.

All of the above!

Ultimately, every one of these examples is an important part of your pre-employment assessment of a candidate. Every candidate is a well-rounded person, and so you should never test just hard skills or just soft skills. It’s when you test all of these abilities in context and in comparison with one another that you can get an accurate prediction of what the candidate will be like to work with. And using every type of pre-employment test helps you compare candidates against one another. For example, you will be able to say something like, “Well, Maxim scored higher on his hard skills assessment, but we really value how Ajit’s cognitive ability test in combination with his work skills test showed the productive changes he would make in the role.”

Why should recruiters conduct pre-employment tests?

The main benefit of candidate testing is to improve the quality of hire by gaining more insights and understanding into your candidate’s personality, skills and approach. But there are many other benefits, too, including:

  • Reducing bias by using a standard and verified measure
  • Increase diversity by casting a wider net
  • Decrease time to hire
  • Keep candidates engaged even through a lengthy recruitment process
  • Increase retention by hiring candidates proven to succeed in the role

Pre-employment testing is the pathway to successful hiring

As a vital part of the recruitment process, pre-employment tests optimize every element of the hiring funnel. Investing time in testing your candidate before an employment offer gives you a much higher chance of hiring the right person for the role, lowering employee turnover and building success at your organization!

And if you need help? HiPeople specialize in smart hiring via pre-employment testing. Book a demo today.

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